My last visit to Walton-on-the-Naze was three years ago, just after I had bought my new camera and all the settings were on automatic. Ah, those were the days. Nothing had changed much apart from the pay and display car park charges which were now £5 for a whole day, although the car park is very secure with good amenities.
It was very busy as it was a lovely sunny day and the schools obviously hadn't gone back in Essex, but still plenty of space for all. The House Sparrow flock had moved from the farm to gorge themselves on the bramble bushes on top of the cliff, and I couldn't resist a few shots as sparrows are still a bit of a rarity at home.
It was also good to see so many young Pied Wagtails running around on the grass in the car park. Not quite as stunning as their parents but still a joy to see. They obviously had a good year.
After a spot of breakfast we left the car park and headed towards the farm. We had only just arrived by the bramble bushes when a bird flew fast and low over the ground and landed in a dead umbilifer. A quick scan through the bins soon revealed that this was a Whinchat, one of three in the area although very flighty, hence just the single shot. It was also nice at that point to bump into Colin Mackenzie-Grieve, who was a new year tick. In fact, the last time I met Colin was more than 10 years ago.
We were now down by the sea wall and, as the scrub-land had proved to be very quiet, decided to walk along the beach. Here there was only a single Wheatear and the waders were not only in very short supply but, because of the low tide, were also very distant. However, as we approached the end of the lagoon there was some movement in one of the bramble bushes. A couple of Whitethroats were feasting on the berries, but stopped for long enough to have their photo taken.
Now on to the beach and heading towards the shingle spit that allows you to get out among what few waders there were. Despite the low tide there was some movement along the coast like this Curlew and small flock of Oystercatchers.
Also on the beach were good numbers of Ringed Plover with the odd Dunlin, but all surprisingly flighty. However, patience eventually paid off and I was able to get a few decent shots of the Ringed Plovers.
Out on the shingle bar was a quartet of Turnstones that were so well camoufaged that you were often very close before you saw them. The bonus here was that, because of the time of the year, they were still in breeding plumage unlike the winter birds that I normally photograph.
But the star of the show today was a Sanderling which acted like most Sanderlings do and let you approach to within 15 yards. In fact I could have got closer but we were separated by a large expanse of menacingly-looking mud.
What a fantastic end to the day.